Our mission

GHDI aims to train a new generation of engineers to collaborate with stakeholders to define problems and develop and implement solutions to address essential health care challenges.

Core values

  • Methodical design ethnography
  • Co-creative design processes
  • Long-standing, respectful, and mutually beneficial partnerships
  • Rigorous coursework and pre-immersion training
  • Meaningful understanding of the broader context of design
  • Immersive fieldwork experiences

Program description

Please refer to the attached publication for a description of the GHDI program: Global Health Design- Clinical Immersion, Opportunity Identification and Definition, and Design Experiences


Our methods

GHDI believes that the best practices for developing the proper health technologies for low- and middle-income countries is through partnerships with teaching hospitals, establishing long-term collaborations centered on reciprocity, and conducting joint immersion experiences with in-country engineering students.

Traditional design processes are technology-centric, focusing on the artifact being developed with minimal emphasis on the context, culture, and people for whom they are developed. GHDI students learn socially engaged design in a classroom setting, practice design in real-world contexts, receive real-time and semi- real-time feedback about their performance to facilitate skill acquisition, and disseminate their scholarly work.


History of GHDI

Since 2008, more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students under Global Health Design Initiative (GHDI) guidance have conducted clinical observations at hospitals in Ghana, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Kenya and China for the purpose of identifying health challenges that could be addressed through engineering design. The overarching objectives of such clinical immersion experiences are to provide students with an opportunity to apply and further develop design ethnography skills, establish intercultural and interdisciplinary communication skills, and gain an understanding of the local and broader contexts of design. In order to design effective technologies suited to different cultures, students must learn design strategies for both eliciting information from stakeholders and incorporating the information into their design decisions.


Our Team

In 2023, the Global Health Design Initiative (GHDI) will be directed by two faculty members:

  • Dr. Kathleen Sienko, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Mechanical Engineering
  • Dr. Julia Kramer, Incoming Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering (Fall 2023).

GHDI is also supported by two Graduate Student Program Managers:

  • Grace Burleson, PhD candidate in Design Science
  • Lucy Spicher, PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering.

This year, the GHDI program plans to support student cohorts in Ghana and Malawi, conducting clinical needs assessments with themes in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emergency Medicine, Surgery, Orthopedics, and/or Rehabilitation. Learn more about our team here.